Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On Delays, and Why They're Not Always a Bad Thing aka, I HAVE A RELEASE DATE WOOOO!

SO… Apart from those last two posts, it's been a while, eh?

I told you this blog posting thing would be pretty erratic. I'm pretty sure I warned you guys about this. I definitely meant to...


Update time!

Book! Much book!

Actually, not that much. Because DELAYS.

A lot of things have happened with my book. My editor got a different job, which meant that my co-author Kari-Lynn and I got a NEW editor. I could have cried about this, but both our editors have been really awesome, so I just feel lucky to have had the chance to work with TWO amazing editors instead of one. (YAY! Cue happy tears! Okay, not really… But YAY!)

But that's not why we're delayed. The delay is because our book is part of a series, and our publisher, Fitzhenry & Whiteside (which publishes excellent books, by the way - no, seriously, award-winning books), bumped the book BEFORE our book, so now OUR book BITE INTO BLOODSUCKERS, which was originally scheduled to come out in October of 2014, is now coming out in the spring of 2015. On MARCH 17, to be precise. Mark your calendars!

I know it's traditional for authors to be a little sad and down in the dumps and throw themselves a bit of a pity party when this kind of delay happens, but I'm actually okay with it. In fact, I'm BETTER than okay with it. Because when you think about it, bugs are a spring and summer thing, and while there are a few non-bug creatures in this book, (vampire bat, anyone?), the vast majority of them are bugs. So I think this timing is actually pretty perfect.

ALSO: Web Series Adaptation!

I have written a web series! It's an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, and you are going to love love love it! I found a really smart, talented filmmaker named James to do storyboarding with me and co-write a few episodes with me before I wrote the rest of it and it will be awesome! James found a blogger and art designer extraordinaire named Olivia to make a set! IN MY HOUSE! I have a set in my basement where a bathroom will be one day. Oh, yeah, baby. I can't show it to you yet, because SURPRISE, but it looks amazing. I have cast most of the roles in the web series! I have FILMED (and also directed) ONE THIRD of it! (The rest will be filmed as soon as I have an actor to fill the last role, which will hopefully be soon, because among other things, it would be awesome if we could finally turn that space into a second bathroom.)

So, basically, once this baby is done and launched, I will be adding "screenwriter, director, and producer" to my list of credentials. But more importantly, I WILL HAVE CREATED A WEB SERIES!

You have no idea how absolutely terrifying that is to hold in my heart.


But it's also really cool, and I hope you all love it.

HOWEVER, I had hoped to have it done and launched and all over the interwebs by now, but I don't because of the whole not-being-able-to-find-the-right-actor thing. And I'm glad it's not done yet, because I've been using this time to perfect the scenes and rewrite and rethink and it is so much better than it would have been otherwise. So this delay, while unanticipated, has not been a bad thing. It has forced me to actually do a not-rushed-job on this series, and I can't wait to share it with you.

SO: here's to rolling with the punches, looking on the bright side, and embracing the opportunities that delays present. Because this is the arts, and delays are inevitable.

Thanks for stopping by.

P.S. BITE INTO BLOODSUCKERS has a pre-order page on AmazonHow cool is that? There is a special place in my heart for the people who pre-order copies of my book. If you would order it, I would love you forever. Seriously. ALSO: that cover is a stand-in for the REAL cover, which will be revealed shortly.

Monday, September 15, 2014


This year, the people behind the Scotiabank Giller Prize have put together an awesome Crazy for Can-Lit giveaway - make a list of books eligible for the Giller Prize in 2014 that you want to read, post it in a public place by 5PM on September 15, 2014 (that's today, guys),and you will be entered to win prizes! (Full details HERE.)

I had a look at the list of eligible books, and WOW, it was hard to pick just a few, but this is my To-Be-Read list from the eligible Giller Prize books:

1) HAIR TRIGGER, by Trevor Clark: Bookstore manager-turned-bank robber Derrick Rowe enlists two other men in an armed heist, setting off a chain of events that lead to a violent climax. I haven't read a good heist book in a while, and this one looks interesting.

2) THE DELUSIONIST, by Grant Buday: "Art, love, and history furnish the setting in this tale of fate and destiny. Set in Vancouver in 1962, we follow Cyril Andrachuk, son of immigrant parents from the former Ukraine, as he makes his way from high school to menial labour jobs, from first love to first heartbreak, from sibling rivalry to malicious family betrayal." I'm interested in stories that explore the concepts of fate and destiny, and there's something about the title that I find irresistible.

3) WORST. PERSON. EVER. by Douglas Coupland: A B-Unit cameraman enters an amusing downward failure spiral that takes him around the world and eventually finds him in the centre of a nuclear war. This book looks hilarious, and after the last book on the list, I'll probably be ready for a light read.

4) THE GEOGRAPHY OF PLUTO, by Christopher DiRaddo: "...perfectly captures the ebb and flow of life through the insightful, exciting, and often playful story of a young man's day-to-day struggle with uncertainty." I love this kind of book, and it's the kind of thing I hope to address in my own work, so I'd really love to see how DiRaddo approaches it.

5) FROG MUSIC, by Emma Donoghue: In 1876 San Francisco, a young woman is shot dead through the window of a saloon. Her friend, a French burlesque dancer, risks everything to bring her murderer to justice. This is based on a real unsolved crime and Donoghue used actual documents to craft her story, AND, I loved ROOM, so I will basically read anything that she writes.

6) THE STONEHENGE LETTERS, by Harry Karlinsky: "While researching why Freud failed to win a Nobel Prize at the Nobel Archives in Sweden, a psychiatrist makes an unusual discovery. Among the piles of papers in the 'Crackpot' file are letters addressed to the executor of Alfred Nobel's will, written by several notable Nobel laureates - including Rudyard Kipling and Marie Curie - each offering an explanation of why and how Stonehenge was constructed. Diligent research uncovers that Alfred Nobel added a secret codicil to his will, a prize for the Nobel laureate who solves the mystery of Stonehenge." One word: Stonehenge. I will read anything that even pretends to be connected to Stonehenge.

7) ALL MY PUNY SORROWS, by Miriam Toews: Two sisters. One who wants to die, and one who wants to keep her sister alive. Toews' work is always poignant and clear as crystal, and I love her books.

8) THE AFTERLIFE OF STARS, by Joseph Kertes: Hungary, 1956. As tanks roll in to crush the Hungarian revolution, two brothers flee with their family. As they grapple with sibling rivalry and incalculable loss, they arrive at a place they thought they'd lost forever: home. I think this sounds wonderful, and I'm curious to see how the story is told through the brothers' perspectives.

9) ALL THE BROKEN THINGS, by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer: 14-year-old Bo is a Vietnamese immigrant living in Toronto, and his family has a secret: his 4-year-old sister was horribly disfigured by Agent Orange. When the circus learns about his sister, and one day his mother and sister disappear, Bo sets off on an extraordinary journey to find his sister. I'm SO INTRIGUED by the plot of this book!

10) WATCH HOW WE WALK, by Jennifer LoveGrove: "Alternating between a woman’s childhood in a small town and as an adult in the city, this novel traces a Jehovah Witness family’s splintering belief system, their isolation, and the erosion of their relationships." This description reminds me of Toews' A COMPLICATED KINDNESS. I'm very interested in books that shine a light on the inner lives of people who follow very strict religious practices, and this looks fantastic.

So there's my Top 10!

What are yours? Are you keen to get your hands on any of the same books? Have you read any of them already? Tell me in the comments!

Friday, September 12, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

A while back (an embarrassingly long while back), I received this package:

What could it be???

I wasn't expecting a package. I LOVE packages! I eagerly tore it open, and inside:

I know Terry! This must be Terry Lynn Johnson!

 I hope MY books have covers that good one day...

IT WAS! It was her newly released book, ICE DOGS, a Middle Grade contemporary adventure that I had been WAITING for ever since she and I had shared a room at an SCBWI conference way back in…let me see now…2012???

Yeah, I wanted this!

My first reaction was, HOLY ICE DOGS, LOOK AT THAT COVER! I mean, just LOOK at it! It's gorgeous! It looks like someone opened the gates to Narnia and a sled dog is walking through them right now. I wanted to get lost in that book.

Unfortunately for me, so did Kidlet Number One, and he snagged it before I could, the sneaky little sneaker.

He read it in an afternoon. This is an indication of just how good ICE DOGS is.

And then: MY TURN! First, a short intro. Here's the flap copy:


That's how the fourteen-year-old dog-sledder Victoria Secord has felt ever since her father died. A champion musher, Victoria is independent, self-reliant, and, thanks to her father, an expert in surviving the unforgiving Alaskan bush. When an injured "city boy" and a freak snowstorm both catch Victoria and her dog team by surprise, however, a routine trip becomes a life-or-death trek through the frozen wilderness. As temperatures drop and food stores run out, Victoria must find a way to save them all in this high-stakes, high-adventure middle grade novel of endurance, hope, and finding your way back home.

This is a book that delivers. From the very first page, I was drawn into Victoria's world: the sights and sounds of a race, the tension, the way the dogs scratch and claw in anticipation The writing crackles with description. Every detail is painted so clearly, but with exactly the right amount of sparsity, that I felt as if I was watching it play out in a film reel in my head. And the author's choice of first person, present tense lends an immediacy to the writing that is perfect for this story.

I also loved how much I learned from this book. As Victoria and Chris (the injured "city boy") navigate the Alaskan wilderness, they rig up snares to hunt for game, follow carrion birds to find food, build fires, snow camp, care for injured dogs…and that's just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. I have some limited experience with snow camping and wilderness survival from my College days in the Berkshires, but what the kids do in this book is something else. The insights into life as a dog sledder are so clear, I feel almost as if you could plonk me in the winter wilderness and I'd survive. (The rational part of me knows that's not the case - DON'T TRY THAT AT HOME, KIDS - but it's an indication of the quality of writing that the imaginative part of me believes it.)

The only part that I didn't absolutely love was the way Chris came into the story. For the first few chapters after we met him, his character struck me as "off" - a little too weird, a little too unpredictable, and a little too unwilling to talk. In hindsight, I think this is all related to the accident that injured him, but while I was reading, I was half-trusting the author to take this to a good place, and half-wondering if he was going to turn out to be a rapist or amateur highway robber or something. As awful as it would have been for Chris, I kind of wanted Victoria to leave him behind at the beginning. Either way, it definitely ramped up the tension! (Not-really spoiler: It's good that she didn't leave him behind. He's not a rapist. This IS a middle grade book, guys)

Finally, the way Victoria's handling of the issues with her mother is woven through the action of the book is so smooth, I didn't even notice it until the book was over. I cried a little at the end, guys. That doesn't happen often.

This is a finely paced page-turner of a novel that both keeps the adrenaline pumping and tugs at the heartstrings. It is a fine piece of writing, and a perfect autumn read! FOUR STARS.